Vermont Air Quality Improved & Burlington Named One of the Cleanest Cities in the Northeast Finds 2016 ‘State of the Air’ Report
Despite continued improvement in air quality, local residents remain at risk from health effects of unhealthy air, according to new report from the American Lung Association
(April 20, 2016) -
The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that air quality has improved in Vermont and throughout the country. Out of the counties with monitors, only Bennington County saw a spike in high ozone days. Burlington County was one of two cities that made all three lists of the cleanest cities in the Northeast, this means Burlington County had no unhealthy days for ozone or particle pollution for all three years and it had one of the 25 lowest levels of annual particle pollution. However, Rutland County received a grade of a C for short-term particle pollution. Overall, Vermont reduced its number of high ozone days in 2012-2014.
“The 2016 ‘State of the Air’ shows that air quality in Vermont has improved; something we should applaud,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Burlington reporting no unhealthy days for ozone or particle pollution for three years is a tremendous success,” continued Seyler. “However, there is more work to be done. Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but more than half of the people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of air pollution.”
Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal. But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected in 2012-2014, are strikingly different for these pollutants nationwide, and also in Vermont.
Ozone Pollution in Vermont
Bennington County received a grade of B for high ozone days. Again Chittenden County received an A for ozone days, reporting no unhealthy days. Rutland County did not have a monitor to report a grade for ozone.
“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Rebecca Ryan, Senior Director of Health Education and Public Policy of the American Lung Association in Vermont. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.”
Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, according to research, climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up.
Particle Pollution in Vermont
The 2016 report also found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 were similar to the 2015 report. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. All counties in Vermont received a passing grade for year-round particle pollution. This is in keeping with the trend of reducing particle pollution.
“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Seyler. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
The 2016 report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. According to the 2016 report, Bennington and Chittenden counties received A’s for short-term particle pollution. Rutland County received a C for short-term particle pollution.
“If we can do more to save lives—we should, and we can,” said Michael Keane, chair of the American Lung Association in Vermont’s Leadership Board. “The Lung Association calls on Vermont’s leaders to continue working on policies to reduce harmful emissions that worsen climate change and harm human health.”
Learn more about Vermont’s rankings, as well as air quality across the state and the nation in the 2016 “State of the Air” report at stateoftheair.org. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact Ebony Walmsley, Communications Associate for the American Lung Association of the Northeast at media@LungNE.org or 860-838-4374.
Significant findings from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report for Vermont include:
• Ozone grade was a B.
• Short-term particle pollution grade remained an A.
• Annual particle pollution level improved slightly.
• Earned a place on the list of cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution.
• Ozone grade remained an A.
• Short-term particle pollution grade earned an A.
• Annual level of particle pollution improved slightly.
• No ozone monitor.
• Short-term particle pollution grade remained at a C.
• Slight improvement in annual level of particle pollution.
• Burlington-South Burlington again made the list of cleanest cities for ozone pollution.